Made in Italy (2020)
★ / ★★★★
James D’Arcy’s directorial film “Made in Italy” attempts to tell a story of estranged father and son who must return to Tuscany in order to restore a villa so that it can be in good enough shape to be sold. But the screenplay is plagued by try-hard, vanilla, humorless jokes that one sits through the first thirty minutes and becomes convinced that the work is made for those who are brain dead. It offers no challenge, no originality, no creativity, not a whiff of a believable character, situation, or conflict. What results is a movie to be endured, like a trip to the dentist; I stayed for the view of the verdant Tuscan hills. I knew I should have just YouTubed such vistas.
Liam Neeson plays the father named Robert and Micheál Richardson plays the son named Jack. The former is an artist whose luster in the arts faded following the death of his wife twenty years ago. The latter is a gallery manager who is on the verge of getting a divorce from the very woman whose father owns the gallery. According to Ruth, the gallery will up for sale in a month. Afraid of change and convinced that he loves his job, Jack concocts a plan: sell his childhood home in Italy, a place he hasn’t visited in two decades, and use the money to buy back the gallery. As the pieces of the plot fall into place, viewers require constant defibrillation for having fallen into a coma. The setup is just so boring; one would think that D’Arcy has learned nothing from being in the movie business since the mid-90s. What is his inspiration for this drivel? I felt no fire behind it.
A few examples of so-called humor: Jack wandering in the village and falling over chairs, the father and the son being unable to make even a most casual conversation (“How’s work?”) during a long drive, two animal encounters—one locked in a cupboard and the other in the bathroom—that supposedly terrify these grown men. And then there are the caricatures of potential buyers who stop by to check out the house. These random surges of “comedy” do not work because the writer-director does not appear to understand the type of story he wishes to tell. There is no discipline in terms of tone and atmosphere.
One minute it embodies that of a light comedy-drama surrounding father and son who failed to come to terms with a family member’s death. The next minute it is a romantic comedy between the gallery manager and the Italian chef named Natalia (Valeria Bilello). We are supposed to buy into the romantic spark after the two share one banter. The script assumes that its audiences have never seen a romantic film or a comedy. Just about everything it offers is cliché (winning each other’s hearts through food, sharing a sad or tragic story then looking into each other’s eyes longingly, getting wet at a nearby pond and sharing a kiss). It even fails to get the very basic elements right, like offering us genuine reasons why Jack would be attracted to Natalia and Natalia to Jack. What about them as people other than the fact they’re both single?
I felt imprisoned while sitting through this sunny funeral, filled to the brim with upbeat symphony or melancholic piano keys when it is time to manipulate the comatose audience into feeling something. Although it is only about an hour and thirty minutes in duration, I checked the clock at least four times. I wanted to scream. Not only is the content dull, the pacing is laborious. We wait for the played out moment when the father and son would finally share a tearful hug so the movie could finally end and we’d be free to go on about our day. The stench of this stinker lingers.